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Montgomery's downtown focus of walking tour : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Montgomery's downtown focus of walking tour
Historic preservation commission offering free event June 21

by John Etheredge


Debbie Buchanan would like area residents who participate in a free walking tour of the Village of Montgomery's historic downtown area on Saturday, June 21 will come away with a greater understanding of what the village was like 100 or more years ago.

"I'm hoping people will be able to ultimately visualize what our downtown core looked like during the earlier days of Montgomery. Now our shopping and housing areas are spread out so much in the village, but we started out as one of those little Mayberry-type towns with a little downtown and I just hope people will be able to visualize that," she said, adding, "I hope the tour gives people a little more appreciation for the history of Montgomery and helps them realize how much the village has changed over the years, too."

The walking tour will begin at 9 a.m. at village hall, 200 North River Street in the village's downtown. All area residents are invited to participate.

Tour guides will present historical information at each of the selected properties as the tour progresses. Guides and those participating in the walk will not enter any of the buildings.

Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the tour.

The event is being organized and sponsored by the village's historic preservation commission (HPC). Buchanan is an executive assistant for the village and serves as staff liaison to the commission.

Buchanan noted the walking tour will encompass a two to three block area of the downtown.

Though small, the village's downtown is filled with buildings that are significant to the village's history, according to Buchanan.

"I think we'll actually have to cut down our current list of buildings (to highlight on the tour) because when you walk around the block downtown, it's amazing how much you could talk about," she said.

Among the buildings to be featured on the tour will be Gray's Mill at Mill and River streets; Lyon Work Space Products on North Main Street; the former Michael's Brothers grocery store on North Main Street at Webster Street; and the former Montgomery Methodist Church located across the street from the former Michael's.

Daniel Gray, the village's founder, constructed Gray's Mill in the 1840s. The familiar village landmark was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Buchanan noted that Lyon Work Space Products on North Main Street was once one of the major employers in the village, along with All-Steel, Caterpillar and Western Electric.

Though Lyon has shifted its manufacturing operations out-of-state, it continues to maintain its corporate office in its red brick building.

The former Montgomery Methodist Church, now the Faith Assembly Church of Montgomery, has stood at the corner of Webster and Main streets since 1885.

"The church merged in about 1990 with the Bristol Methodist Church and the Yorkville Methodist Church and that congregation is still in existence and, in fact, we have a lot of employees at village hall that go to that church," Buchanan said.

The former Michaels Brothers grocery store was constructed in the early 1880s as the Esser's Grocery Store. The Michael's family purchased the business in 1925 and continued to operate the store into the 1990s.

Buchanan added some buildings that are no longer standing, including a former soda pop factory that once stood in what is now the parking lot for the Montgomery VFW Hall on North River Street, will be discussed on the tour.

"The pop factory was a business that originated on that site in the 1800s. They bottled spring water, but it evolved into a pop factory," she said, "We have old-timers who remember it still being there until the 1940s or, perhaps, the 1950s."

Another building that is no longer standing that will be highlighted is the former South Shore Inn, which stood at the southwest corner of Webster and River streets on the current site of George's restaurant.

"That was a tavern and a hotel, but it had a very bad reputation," Buchanan said, adding, "It was our house of ill repute. They had rooms by the hour."

Following the tour, the historic Settlers Cottage, which stands on the front lawn of village hall, will be open for visitors.

Buchanan said Samantha Marecek, the daughter of Doug Marecek, a village board member, will provide the refreshments with assistance from her dad.

Buchanan noted that it was Samantha Marecek who proposed the walking tour to the village board during a meeting earlier this year.

"The HPC had discussed holding a walk tour before, but then when Sammi came in and came up with the idea that was kind of the impetus for us to discuss it again and get serious about what we would do and how we would do it," Buchanan said.

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